The U.S. Dept. of Energy sponsors a biennial race of solar powered cars called the American Solar Challenge. It's a race that's every bit as competitive as the Indy 500. Engineering students at various colleges compete against each other in a race that starts in Chicago, IL and ends in Claremont, CA. "We used lithium ion batteries in place of lead-acid batteries this year," explains Brian Gilchrist, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. He is one of the team members for the university's M-Pulse, the car that won the American competition this year. Gilchrist says it is a catalyst for innovation and beneficial to the auto industry. "Automotive manufacturers are looking at the photovoltaic systems, some of which may eventually be applied in hybrid vehicles," he says. The M-Pulse has an all-composite structure for weight reduction. Gilchrist adds that the car's aerodynamic design also helped win the race. This year's victory was especially sweet for the University of Michigan because they beat the University of Missouri at Columbia, last year's race champions. Sponsors of the race include Ford, GMC, MDSI, National Instruments, Keithley Instruments, Loctite, Motorola, and John Deere. For more information, go to www.engin.umich.edu/solarcar.
Altair has released an update of its HyperWorks computer-aided engineering simulation suite that includes new features focusing on four key areas of product design: performance optimization, lightweight design, lead-time reduction, and new technologies.
At IMTS last week, Stratasys introduced two new multi-materials PolyJet 3D printers, plus a new UV-resistant material for its FDM production 3D printers. They can be used in making jigs and fixtures, as well as prototypes and small runs of production parts.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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